The June 8 primary election will see Rhoda Cargill and Chas Vincent each seeking the Republican nomination to run in November for the state Senate District 1 seat in Lincoln County. The Missoulian sent the candidates a questionnaire about issues likely to be of concern to voters this year. Here are their responses, some of which may have been edited and consolidated for space:
What's your solution to our looming state budget problem?
Cargill: There are no quick fixes. It has taken years to reach this level of absurdity; it will take serous changes in policy to turn it around. This is not possible without a major change of our current elected officials. The state doesn't have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. It is currently seeking to raise revenue through taxes rather thAn doing the hard, necessary work of getting control of spending.
Vincent: The combination of business closures, widespread unemployment and government growth has left Montana citizens with a range of programs and services they can no longer afford. Just cutting spending will not be enough, and raising taxes or fees to backfill lacking revenue is unacceptable. We must make our government one that we can afford and sustain, without asking more from citizens who are currently struggling and making adjustments to their own personal budgets.
Is DUI a concern, and if so, what can the Legislature do about it?
Cargill: Of course it is; so is bank robbery. The state has made both a criminal offense and set sentencing recommendations for both. What more can be done? Public information, threat of fines and incarceration are offered, and still they drink and drive. Studies have been conducted and legislative committees have debated a fix to DUI. In the end, it is impossible to rid ourselves of stupid by creating more laws. It only feels good.
Vincent: Drunk driving should be a concern to everyone. I believe that current statutes regulating DUI offenders are working relatively well, but there's always room for improvement. Approximately 80 percent of first-time DUI violators never receive another; it's the remaining 20 percent of repeat offenders that are difficult to find solutions for. The interim Law and Justice Committee has been considering possible policy changes for several months, and I look forward to hearing those suggestions.
Are property taxes a concern, and if so, what can the Legislature do about it?
Cargill: A total rework of the tax appraisal system needs to be accomplished in the 2011 session. Our property values have drastically fallen, and yet our property taxes have increased four- or fivefold, in some cases forcing people out of their homes. The Montana tax appraisal structure needs to be addressed immediately. It has been described to me by an appraiser as being nearly unworkable and discriminatory.
Vincent: Yes, property taxes are a very big concern, especially for those living in counties like ours with such small percentages of private land to pay for services that everyone enjoys. There needs to be very close attention given to how and where we make cuts in our budget, as tax shifts to property owners can occur when things such as county entitlements are adjusted. This next Legislature also needs to correct the property reappraisal formula used last session.
Reporter Michael Jamison can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.